Petty criminality and the social war

Reprinted from Milwaukee Indymedia, some anarchists in Milwaukee put together a list of actions and things that happened in their area in 2008. It's a list of mostly minor vandalism and banner drops here and there, and as such its posting received some criticism of being a "social bore" for not being connected to wider social struggles.

For Chicago, a list this long of graffiti and vandalism throughout the city could probably be compiled on a daily basis -- none of it necessarily having the kind of 'political' or social intentions that many of these have, but the actual impact, perhaps, being more of a nuisance to city government and property owners.

Is this the central purpose these types of acts -- nuisance and economic damage? One suspects that if that were merely the aim, then it would be unnecessary to write messages or issue claims of responsibility and revolutionary treatises about them. Who is the intended recipient of these messages and who actually receives them? What is actually conveyed?

Portions of this blog are dedicated to being a "crime blotter" of sorts and seem to glorify (fetishize?) certain acts of criminal behavior -- even those without political intentions -- and while I can't speak to the motives of the Milwaukee anarchists, my own reasons for spreading news of such acts are directed both within and without the anarchist (or radical/activist/etc) milieu.

Anarchists are often suckered into the Leftist self-absorbed delusion that our acts are paving the way towards revolution. It's perhaps a reflection of our need to convince ourselves that we matter, that our ideas are the correct ones, and that we are productively using our time to achieve a fantastic goal. We see this in the distortions and fabrications of report backs from conferences, convergences and actions and the rhetoric posing as critical analysis and strategy. Even lists such as the one below can contribute to this, inasmuch as these activist gestures can be mistaken for signs of social conflagration.

We need to put our own actions into context and not be convinced that our having an analysis of capitalism and government makes what we do any more important or meaningful than the thousands of acts of subversion, revolt and empowerment that regularly take place in the lives of those who have never read Bonano and don't give a fuck about twinkle fingers.

To the extent that those who desire to exacerbate social conflict can differentiate this desire with reality (as in the authors' description of these acts as "efforts over the last year to experiment with conflict"), the anarchist crime blotter serves the opposite function of the police crime blotter -- whereas the latter inspires fear, the former inspires (dare I say) hope. We feel all around us of the watch of panopticon, the sense of futility, the inability to achieve our desires. The anarchist crime blotter shows us that the state is not all knowing, all seeing, all powerful. Whether it's a bank robbery, a bricked window, a graffiti tag or an occupied factory, individual and collective acts of revolt against the alienation, violence and drudgery of capitalist life offer (to me, at least) the reminder that there are always cracks in this system, and the future is not necessarily bleak.

Beyond that I'm reminded of an explanation of the essay "Why I Love Shoplifting," and that its purpose was not necessarily to convince anarchists to start stealing but to encourage thieves to take a look at the social context of their daily activities, and perhaps to begin dreaming of larger adventures -- what's the line? Better to loot than shoplift, to ambush than to snipe, to walk out than to phone in a bomb threat, to strike than to call in sick, to riot than to vandalize.

As far as I know, Chicago anarchists do not have a collection of clandestine acts of 2008 to glorify this New Year's Eve. We speak to one another of our quieter victories, relish our survival for another year, and take stock of our possibilities for the future. And we have this cool banner from a Greek riot solidarity demonstration a couple weeks ago:


This is a compilation of some actions that happened in the Milwaukee area during 2008. It is in no way a complete list, nor does it give an accurate reading of all the resistances and conflict within the city (inherently permeated by them). The minor and major contradictions of everyday life within a city explode and take form in a multitude of effects, but what has been compiled here are what appear to be conscious efforts over the last year to experiment with conflict and build off of these experiences - to act in concert, in solidarity, for themselves or for fun, etc.

A more thorough analysis and elaboration of the direction things seem to be headed in is in order.

January 8th: two banners dropped reading "destroy the election" and "choose your own adventure" claimed by some milwaukee anarchists

January 17th: three banners dropped reading "whoever wins we lose", "9-1-08, st. paul, it's on!" and "let the end come: 9-1-08" claimed by some milwaukee anarchists

January 17th: anti-RNC graffiti on condo developments that read "shut down the RNC" and a circle A.

Febuary 5th: banners dropped reading "victory against politics", "9-1-08" and "shut down the RNC" on the national day of action against the elections called by Unconventional Action.

Febuary 5th: bannners dropped in osh kosh reading "Demicrans and Republicrats both fuck working class" and "8.24.08 Receate68.org / 9.1.08 NORNC.org."

March 18th: recruiting center on Oakland ave vandalized with spray paint and window broken for anniversary of the war in Iraq. http://mke.indymedia.org/en/2008/03/209413.shtml

March 20th: Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarians from around the Midwest blockade downtown Milwaukee and halt traffic for about 30 minutes leaving fences, news paper boxes and trash bins in the middle of the roads in wake of their path. 4 people were arrested.

March 24th: The CEO of Oshkosh Corporation, Robert Bohn, arrived at the Oshkosh Country Club to give a presentation to the future business leaders of the world finding a message for him painted across the front entrance and door. It read 'You're Days Are Numbered Bohn (A).'

March 31st: It was reported that early in the morning the intersection of Highway 21 and Sawyer Avenue was blockaded. Dumpsters and their contents, along with other debris, were strewn across the intersection effectively blocking it for morning rush hour traffic. An altered road sign was placed in front of the toppled dumpsters reading 'Road Closed Due to War.'

March 31st: Two banners were spotted within the city of Oshkosh. One was hanging from a security fence in front of an Oshkosh Corporation Defense factory. It read 'Oshkosh Says Fuck the War Truck.' The other was hung on a guard rail overlooking Highway 41. It read 'End the Slaughter in Iraq.'

March 31st: Around a dozen people gathered at the headquarters of Oshkosh Corporation dressed as robots. They were accompanied by a shopping cart fashioned into an Oshkosh Truck which was devouring a young child while robot techno was blasting out of its mouth. The people played games and danced for a little over an hour bringing laughs, frowns, and looks of intense frustration and disgust to the faces of Oshkosh Corporation employees and police alike.

June 7th: Bash Back Milwaukee and Anti-Racists throw water balloons filled with glitter at Nazis who came to pridefest to protest.

July 4th: Army Recruiting Center vandalized again with "get the fuck out" as well as a circle A and circle e sprayed on the front of the building.

July 5th: Four Milwaukee area Starbucks had their locks glued and were closed for prime hours of business as an action for a international day of action against Starbucks.

August 14th: "A gang of anti-hipster hooligans trashed an Urban Outfitters in Milwaukee." Displays were flipped over and merchandise strewn into the street outside.

September 1-4: Many autonomous actions happened throughout the city of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in attempts to "crash the convention" or simply experiment with possibilities for going wild.

November 5th: Police car attacked at Riverview dorms in Riverwest

November 5th: ATM attacked and vandalized in solidarity with people facing state repression

November 5th: USA Today newspapers throughout the city were wrapped with a false cover the claimed "capitalism wins at the polls" and "anarchy brewing in the streets."

December 13th: Two banner drops in solidarity with RNC Arrestees and Greek Rioters that read "Solidarity means attack: this is global social war" and "Burn Greece Burn: Alex was here"

December 13th: "At least 21 ATMs, banks, and businesses had their locks glued or were otherwise vandalized all across Milwaukee" in solidarity with RNC arrestees.

December 20th: Chase bank in Osh Kosh had its locks glued and paint thrown at it.

December 20th: "Vandalism claiming solidarity with greek anarchists, and denouncing police officers" reported to be seen all over Milwaukee.


Robbers break banks, but not record

A Metropolitan Bank branch was robbed this morning on the South Side, the FBI said.

FBI agents were called to the branch at 1947 W. 35th St. in the McKinley Park neighborhood. The robbery occurred about 9:45 a.m.

The robber got away "with unknown proceeds," according to Chicago Police Officer Daniel O'Brien. It was not immediately known if he had a weapon.

The bank robbery unofficially is the 270th of the year in the metropolitan area, said FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates. That exceeds last year's total of 226, but falls short of the record of 284 set in 2006.


2 escape Illinois Youth Center

Authorities are searching for two youths who escaped from the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles in recent days.

The facility, 4450 Lincoln Highway, is conducting an internal investigation to find out how and when the juvenile offenders escaped, said Derek Schnapp, agency spokesman.

The youth facility also is working with the Illinois State Police and St. Charles police to find the two juveniles, Schnapp said.

He declined to say what offenses landed them in the youth facility.
from the Trib


Thieves target cops' credit union accounts

At least 50 members of the Chicago Patrolmen's Credit Union have been targets of thieves who have used their debit card numbers, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators suspect the thieves are stealing the card numbers when the cards are used to make online payments. Police don't think credit union employees are involved in the thefts. About 12 financial institutions, including the credit union, have been hit.

Investigators suspect the debit card numbers are being sold. Thieves use the numbers to electronically manipulate gift cards to purchase items and steal money from the victims' credit union accounts. Thieves have used the manipulated gift cards to purchase items worth a few hundred dollars to about $1,000, officials said.

Suspects in Rockford, Lansing and Crestwood have been arrested using the gift cards. Police are trying to identify who stole the debit card numbers. The retailers will suffer the losses from the scheme, authorities said.

from the Sun-Times


Bank robbery suspect tries to run over FBI agent

A bank robbery suspect who was being detained in an FBI van on the Gold Coast Monday morning commandeered the vehicle, threw it into reverse and struck an FBI agent before he was shot, authorities said.

No charges were immediately filed against the suspect, who was being treated at a hospital. An FBI spokesman said the agent, who wasn't identified, wasn't injured and refused treatment.

The 27-year-old suspect allegedly robbed a bank in Uptown earlier Monday and was tracked to the 100 block of East Pearson by FBI agents, who arrested him there after a short foot chase.

The suspect was handcuffed, shackled and sitting in the back of an undercover FBI vehicle -- a Dodge Caravan -- about 10:30 a.m. as the two agents collected evidence outside the car, according to a police report.

He managed to slip out of the handcuffs and put the van in reverse, striking one of the agents, according to the report, and a second agent then fired a shot at him, causing the suspect to crash the van.

The keys were in the ignition because of the cold weather, the FBI said.

The suspect, a Chicago man, was believed to have robbed a TCF Bank at 4355 N. Sheridan in Uptown, the FBI said.

from the Trib


Nihilist reactions to self-management

The factory takeover at Republic has captured the imaginations and energy of anti-capitalists all over. I wrote earlier about avoiding illusions and projecting motives onto the workers. Now that the occupation itself is over we are all free to provide our over-analyses and project our desires onto the vague "movement" this may or may not inspire. I'll let others with closer links speak to the results for the workers themselves; what I'm interested here is anarchist response and possibility.

A common failing among anti-capitalist analysis is the impulse to call for self-management of the Republic factory, and the fetishization of re-occupation & production generally as revolutionary strategy. Is self-management good for workers, and is self-management good for revolution? The answer to both questions is -- well, kinda, sorta, maybe.

One report from Republic workers I've heard is that they were wary about taking over and running the factory themselves, not because they don't think they're capable, but instead that the window market is terrible right now, and it would likely be extremely costly and risky for them. Getting their checks was just a better financial decision, and financial ruin is not much of a sustainable revolutionary strategy. A program of self-management here stifles the possibility for more enriching aims -- like, say, workers demanding two to ten times the money they are legally owed, fencing factory machinery, or turning the building itself into a collective home for workers who could no longer pay their mortgages.

If the Republic action is indicative of a form worker resistance could take during this crisis, how does it speak to our desire for anarchy? When anarchists are uninvolved in the intimate planning and execution of worker actions, what points of commonality can be found with the workers and how can anarchists engage with and support these struggles without abandoning their principles?

A discussion over the weekend demanded anarchists not only fight "against" the establishment but "for" something. It is vital anarchists reject this demand, inasmuch as it is a call to develop a positive program for struggle or a blueprint (or even, I daresay, a rough outline) for an alternative society. It is an understandable impulse, but in the same way self-management transforms from a weapon into a limitation, so too does a political program go from a guide to a chain. Political programs are for Leftists -- social planners who want to impose their version of justice onto others. Anarchists desire free societies, decentralized and autonomous communities deciding for themselves as appropriate for their situations. Freedom has no program.

It is from this aspect that anarchists can find commonality with rebellious workers like those holding Republic Windows. The particulars of their action are irrelevant -- what is especially inspiring is the spirit of autonomy and the rejection of capitalist law and logic. Leftists call for the workers to re-start production, to strike and make demands, to fight for a return to normalcy; anarchists should encourage only autonomous decision making (free of the political hacks and boundaries) and offer whispers of radical possibilities.

Anarchist participation was limited not because of an extremist political ideology but the lack of personal relationships with those engaged in struggle. While anarchists waited for guidance and requests from the workers, the workers had no knowledge of the skills and resources anarchists supporters might be able to contribute.

Unconditional anarchist support for workers struggles does not mean a lack of critical analysis -- now that the occupation has ended, anarchists should learn from the action and use it to shape our direction as we move ahead. The quick action of politicians, union officials and others shaped the form of the demands that were made. How should anarchists apply efforts in situations when they are clearly on the outside, and bureaucrats' grip keep it that way?

In the wake of the resolution of the dispute, a fund has been created to attempt to revive the factory operations. Some earlier reports spoke of trying to find new management for the company. It remains to be seen to what extent the fund would create a worker- or union-managed factory, or whether it would be used to find new masters. And either way, the resolution itself re-affirms capitalist power and the workers must again submit themselves to the rule of the global economy. What worthwhile contributions can anarchists make so that this scenario does not continue to play itself out?

If this action really is going to be an example for laborers around the U.S. and elsewhere, what are the best ways to contribute to the spread of its momentum? Is workplace-occupation to become just another issue on the plate of issues for anarcho-activists? Is renewed effort on traditional worker organizing vital to spread resistance to the economy, or are there others ways that will create initiative and space for mass criminality and autonomy that carry the same threat to the capitalist order as a factory occupation would?

Chicago cop shot

A police officer was shot while on duty in the Lawndale neighborhood early Friday morning, police said.

The shooting happened around 2 a.m. near 18th Street and Washtenaw Avenue while officers were investigating a report of shots fired, police said.

Additional shots were fired, and one of the officers was struck in the shoulder, police said.
Sources on the scene said the injured officer was driven by a partner to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where the officer was being treated for an apparent gunshot wound.

The officer's condition was unknown, but police said the injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

No one was in custody, police said.
from the Trib


Thoughts on the Republic Window takeover

The factory takeover at Republic Windows has quickly generated huge media attention and widespread support. It's also become a rallying cry for assorted Leftist political groups, interpreting the action and its motivations to fit their agenda and program. In its least malicious guise is the suggestion that the action is the start of some sort of "new movement" (an exciting possibility, but a bit premature of a claim); at worst Leftists impose their own messaging over the workers' intentions and see the workers as a potential vanguard for whatever diabolical intention they have in mind.

I find the takeover extremely inspiring and thrilling, but I think it's also important to temper that excitement with the on-the-ground reality at the factory and make an attempt, at least, to take off my black-and-red ideological glasses while looking at the situation.

The action is not a "sit-down strike" -- thought it's an exciting term, the action is not a strike. Folks who use the term are either misinformed or imposing their own delusions over what the action is about. Moreover, it fits it into the category of acceptable labor actions, and doesn't recognize it for what it essentially is -- criminal action by workers stealing and trespassing on private property.

The quick intervention by liberal establishment folks like Jesse Jackson and Luis Gutierrez, and the brief verbal support by Obama in favor of payment, points to the degree -- or lack thereof -- to which the action contains the possibility of extending beyond the contained conflict. These personalities keep the emphasis on acceptable discourse by political actors and away from all the possibilities the workers hold. Their presence already brings with it obligations and responsibilities counterpoised to the desire of the workers to maintain the occupation under all circumstances until their demands are met. While the degree of conflict is currently minimal, a protracted struggle will only increase the political demand for compromise and restraint.

The limited demands made by the workers so far do not suggest a desire to exacerbate conflict. Some folks who have been to the factory report mention of discussions about restarting productions, but it's impossible at this point to decipher the extent to which those conversations are occurring. There's also been a couple mentions of the same in some reports from Leftist press, but the veracity of those are even more impossible to ascertain. Nor have the workers begun looting or destroying machines and office materials -- from the lobby one can see a plethora of untouched computers and fax machines ripe for the taking. The struggle is still fresh and new -- but at what point will material need outweigh image and respectability?

An interesting development that hasn't been too widely publicized yet is that the owners do seem to be moving the operation into another state. According to an investigation in this article by the Trib:
People who apparently have ties to the financially strapped Republic Windows formed a limited liability corporation in Illinois last month, Echo Windows & Doors, that has bought a similar plant in western Iowa.

Sharon Gillman, who shares an address with Republic President and CEO Rich Gillman, is listed as an officer of Echo Windows & Doors LLC, which was incorporated in Illinois on Nov. 18, according to secretary of state records.
How interesting.

The article says Echo recently purchased a pre-existing factory in Iowa; the address is 2400 N. Broadway, Red Oak, Iowa.

Unfortunately, capitalist law and logic make it pretty clear that it's the factory owner and not the bank that is responsible for paying the debt to the workers. But, if the owners close their company their pockets are technically empty. UE's putting pressure on Bank of America could have implications beyond simply paying owed wages and opens the door to struggle that can place the blame on the economic system itself.

The action does/will have implications for anarchists, but I think so far they are not the ones that folks have been bandying around. One message someone from the Four Star collective sent out suggests anarchists need to be more "structurally organized":

For us anarchists, this turn of events points to the serious need to become structurally organized, and that by working so decentralized from one another and other organizations, we were ineffectively unable to come out in a serious and cohesive body of support. Being a factory occupation, this is a moment in which anarchist politics are most important.

In fact, what's personally been so inspiring for me on 'our' end of things is that anarchist support developed extremely rapidly -- especially because of individual initiative and autonomy. Several delegations have brought food and other supplies to the factory, and news is being spread extremely quickly and widely. FNBs are organizing more food support, a movie showing is being set up, and a rapid-response phone tree is coming together.

At this point, what more could a formal organization do besides co-opt the struggle, like all the Leftist paper sellers flocking the site "like flies to honey"? Are we supposed to print copies of Rocker's Anarcho-Syndicalism to pass out to educate the workers? I'm sure they have enough shitty newspapers to read.

Certainly, anarchists can develop relationships, beyond slogans and press releases, to provide unqualified support for worker autonomy -- to ensure that if workers decide on the need to escalate their occupation or resist efforts by the law, political hacks and opportunists cannot strangle it. But there needs to be a clear delineation between supporting and spreading the struggle -- creating autonomous though complimentary situations -- and hijacking their action from outside

The negotiation between the bank, owners and union is set to begin in about an hour, so we'll see how that goes. Perhaps the action will lead to a quick settlement, and all these talks of preparations are unnecessary. The action seems to have sparked something nonetheless -- will victory here end the cries for worker power?

Success could inspire similar actions by those who find themselves in similar situations -- but it would also set a dangerous precedent for creditors like BofA who refuse to be held responsible for the debts of others. The failure to reach an agreement could lead to a protracted campaign, and from the looks of things I think the Left and others are ready for a fight.


Chicago window workers occupy factory

I won't be on the web to update but here's the source who may be updating more: PilsenProle. I don't know anything about the blog, author or its politics, just wanted to get this up quickly.

The workers of Republic Windows and Doors are right this minute occupying their factory, which was due to close at 10:00 AM this morning. The workers are fighting for pay for their lost vacation days and for the 75 days notice that they are guaranteed under Illinois law. This is the first time in many years workers have taken the bold, militant strategy of occupying their place of work to demand justice. The plan to occupy the plant until they hear the results of the next round of negotiations Monday afternoon. THEY NEED TO KNOW THEY HAVE OUR SUPPORT!!!

A prayer vigil has been planned for 12:00 Noon tomorrow. Please attend. BUT WE SHOULD ORGANIZE A CONSTANT PRESENCE OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS PICKETING OUTSIDE THE FACTORY! BRING FOOD AND COFFEE FOR THE WORKERS. It is our presence and the press that is the workers best defense against the police raiding the factory.

These workers are fighting for all of us!!! As the economic crisis deepens we need to launch a working class fight back. These workers are the starting point and deserve our full support.

Go to…

Republic Windows & Doors
1333 N. Hickory
On Goose Island, near the intersection of Division & Clyborn

Call for more info… (312) 502-7867


Mortgage Crisis Opens Doors for Squatters

López lives in a three-flat in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. An ex-girlfriend lives on the first floor. She’s the one who invited López to move into the basement space last year. She was a legitimate tenant, but now says she doesn’t know who to pay rent to. No one in the building has paid any rent or utilities since the landlords moved out more than a year ago.

A deed filed with Cook County shows that one of the nation’s largest banks foreclosed on the property months ago. A county court summons also names that bank and alleges 10 building-code violations. The squatters asked us not to report the bank’s name.

from Chicago Public Radio
I heard this on the way to work this morning. This situation apparently has repeated itself throughout the city -- disappearing landlords leaving the buildings with tenants and questionable status. It's much easier and less sketchy than breaking into an abandoned home. If this is a common occurrence in certain neighborhoods, perhaps a squatter and support network could be developed to ensure that if steps are taken by absentee landlords to claim property, an organized effort could resist evictions and make tenant claims to land and homes something more permanent.